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Characteristics of a Christian

By REV. DANNY GODDARD - For The Courier-Times

Jesus was crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended into Glory. A hundred-twenty believers waited until the Holy Spirit came as promised. Three thousand sinners were saved that day and the Early Church began.

Opposition, however, was quick to arise. I wish I could tell you that it was the atheists across town or the unbelievers down the street or the thugs and thieves of the day. Unfortunately, the opposition came from within the Church.

The Bible says, “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring …” (Acts 6:1, KJV). The sound of the Greek word for “murmuring” suggests the “buzzing of bees.” The same word is used in other places where someone had complained about the works of God. (Mark 14:5; Luke 15:2; John 6:41) So some church folk are griping about a matter, eventually arguing with a disciple named Stephen.

A task force was assigned to look into the complaint. Members of the committee had to possess certain qualifications that all of us should have. I called these “characteristics of a Christian.”

First, a Christian should have a good reputation. (Acts 6:3a) Bible translations use words like “good report,” “honest report,” or “good standing.” A Christian should have a good name outside the church. I remember a time or two when one of our people had messed up and someone asked me, “Isn’t he a member of your church?” The Christian has a higher standard to maintain than that of the world.

Secondly, a Christian should be full of the Spirit. (Acts 6:3b) Both Jesus and Paul had instructed the disciples that they are to be Spirit-filled. (Acts 1:4-5; Ephesians 5:8) As Stephen was being lied about in a court-like situation, his face began to glow like that of an angel! (Acts 6:15) The more pressure put on Stephen, the more Jesus came out! As he was being stoned to death, Stephen even prayed the same prayer that Jesus had prayed at His death: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” (Acts 7:60; Luke 23:34) Stephen was full of the Spirit of Jesus.

Third on the list is wisdom. (Acts 6:3c) Christians need wisdom for the business of the church. They also need wisdom to make spiritual decisions.

In the fourth place is faith. (Acts 6:8) Faith is so powerfully important. We can’t be saved without faith. (Ephesians 2:8) We can’t even please God if we don’t have faith. (Hebrews 11:6) That faith should increase as we grow spiritually.

There’s a fifth thing: Power! (Acts 6:8) Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon His disciples there and now with power. (Acts 1:8). There were times when the disciples would need that power, as in Acts 4:31. I remember a few years ago driving up the mountains of North Carolina when the cruise control on our van suddenly lost power. Facing the inclines of life, we need the power of the Spirit.

Characteristic number six is a holy boldness. (Acts 7:51) Stephen took a stand against his accusers and Christians today need to be willing to take a stand. We need to call sin “sin!” We need to say “No!” to the ways of the world!

In the seventh place, Christians need to keep their eyes on Jesus. (Acts 7:55) We need to take our eyes off our accusers, off our problems, and keep them on Jesus. Far too many people quit the church because of people or problems. The writer to the Hebrews advised us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Finally, a characteristic of Christianity is having a godly influence on others. (Acts 7:58) Stephen had an influence on Saul of Tarsus who later became the Apostle Paul. Peter and John had an influence on the authorities of Jerusalem (Acts 4:13) We Christians need to influence someone for Jesus. I heard about a pastor in Boston who had been asked the secret of his success. He replied, “I preach on Sunday, but I have 450 members who take my message on Monday and preach it wherever they go!”

So these are the traits of a Christian. Sound like a tough assignment? High expectations? It should! It’s called “Christlikeness!”

The Rev. Danny Goddard is senior pastor at the New Castle First Church of the Nazarene. He is a regular contributor to the Faith Perspective column.